Comparative data

Bryan Heidorn heidorn at ALEXIA.LIS.UIUC.EDU
Wed Sep 6 18:30:32 CEST 2000

Given prior comments I think I should rephrase my prior comments about free
text since if is not contradictory to what most others have said since,
although it might not seem that way.

I think that everyone should produce the most standardized, consistent and
meaningful data possible, grounded only on fact and direct observation. If we
had a perfect data model and everyone did that all our problems would be
solved! Problem is that we'll never make a data model that can capture all of
the semantics of the natural world. Even with the expressive power of Natural
Languages we can not do that, certainly no taxonomic data standard will. So
there will always be information that is important to communicate to other
people that will not fit well through the thin pipe of the formal
specifications. When that nasty and unfortunate thing happens, the standard
needs to handle it. We don't want people on real projects avoiding using the
standard because there is some critical piece of information that just will
fit through the data model.

Then there is a legacy data... we'll never get enough money to fit it into a
data model to the atomic level. Text blobs will have to do for some of that.

Structure is good when we can get it.


At 09:08 AM 9/7/00 +1000, Mike Dallwitz wrote:
>> From: "P. F. Stevens" <peter.stevens at MOBOT.ORG>
>>> producing comparative data is difficult. Nevertheless,
>>> shouldn't this be one of the main objectives of taxonomy?
>> Absolutely.  And surely this is what we are trying to facilitate here, and
>> what guides the discussion.
>My comments were in response to Kevin Thiele's opinion:
>> I think part of the basic problem is [trying] to force too much structure
>> and while this is a great promise it's been an impediment in practice.
>'Structure' apparently means a character list, i.e. the basis for producing
>comparative data. Although Kevin says elsewhere that both structured and
>unstructured data should be allowed (and I agree - they are allowed in
>DELTA), the above statement seems to suggest that the 'impediment' should be
>avoided by encouraging the use of non-comparative data.
>Mike Dallwitz
>CSIRO Entomology, GPO Box 1700, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
>Phone: +61 2 6246 4075   Fax: +61 2 6246 4000
>Email: md at  Internet:

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